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If you are working, according to SSA’s definition of work, then you are not eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits. However, work has a very specific meaning under SSA’s rules. Work is defined by the SSA as “substantial gainful activity.”(SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (after impairment related work expenses) is considered to be engaging in SGA or working. Under SSA’s provisions, a person who is engaging in SGA is not eligible for disability benefits.


SGA is defines work as “doing significant physical or mental activities . . . for pay or profit. . . .” “Significant activities” are useful in the accomplishment of a job and have economic value.

Work may be substantial even if it is done on a part time basis. Additionally, it may still be substantial work, even if the individual does less, is paid less, or has less responsibility than in previous work.

Work activity by an employee is gainful if it is the kind of work usually done for pay, whether for cash or for goods. Activities such as carrying for yourself and household tasks are not work. Likewise, unpaid training, hobbies, and school attendance are not work. Clubs and social programs are also not considered to be SGA.

definition of the word work.


Below, please find a chart that defines the monthly amount of money you can earn in any given year before the SGA definition applies. As you can see, there is a difference between those who are blind and those who are not blind. People who are blind can earn more money every month, but still be below SGA.

Also, the SGA amount is your gross earnings per month. This means before taxes are taken out. Many people, for example, assume that their take home pay is what the SSA counts as SGA. Unfortunately, that is not correct. SGA is the full amount you make per month, including taxes or any other withholdings.

Monthly substantial gainful activity amounts by disability type
Year Blind Not blind
1976 $230 $230
1977 240 240
1978 334 260
1979 375 280
1980 417 300
1981 459 300
1982 500 300
1983 550 300
1984 580 300
1985 610 300
1986 650 300
1987 680 300
1988 700 300
1989 740 300
1990 780 500
1991 810 500
1992 850 500
1993 880 500
1994 930 500
1995 $940 $500
1996 960 500
1997 1,000 500
1998 1,050 500
1999 1,110 700
2000 1,170 700
2001 1,240 740
2002 1,300 780
2003 1,330 800
2004 1,350 810
2005 1,380 830
2006 1,450 860
2007 1,500 900
2008 1,570 940
2009 1,640 980
2010 1,640 1,000
2011 1,640 1,000
2012 1,690 1,010
2013 1,740 1,040
2014 1,800 1,070
2015 $1,820 $1,090
2016 1,820 1,130
2017 1,950 1,170
2018 1,970 1,180
2019 2,040 1,220
2020 2,110 1,260
2021 2190 1310
2022 2260 1,350


Many people think they can work and still be paid benefits. However, this is simply not true. The SSA has a specific amount of money that you can earn on a monthly basis. If you earn over that amount, then you are working SGA. Therefore, you cannot receive disability benefits. Work makes you ineligible for both SSDI and SSI benefits. People who are working and also claiming an SSDI check are committing fraud. Social Security benefits are for people who cannot work and are likely to never work again.

If you try to work and you earn under the SGA amount or your work doesn’t last more than a few months, then you can still apply for benefits. Some people try to work despite their severe illness. If you have questions about whether a disability is a barrier to work, read here.

Working a few hours a week should not hurt your chances of being paid benefits. However, if you work for a  longer period of time, your attorney will need to argue for the judge to apply the rules of an unsuccessful work attempt.

Most people, however, with a mental or physical condition find that they cannot work 40 hours a week or even work on a part time basis. That is why they are filing for benefits. SSDI benefits replace monthly income. Additionally, SSDI benefits come with Medicare benefits. Medicare benefits are a form of health insurance. These benefits are important if you have a severe illness. Medicare benefits start 29 months after your onset date of disability. The 29 months, for example, includes your five month waiting period and a 2 year waiting period.


At our Cannon Disability Law office, we help our clients apply for benefits. Also, we appeal SSA’s denials. If you need to apply for benefits, then you can do so online at Social Security’s website. It doesn’t matter where you live in the country, the above table applies to you.

If you live in Utah, then we have Utah SSDI information here. We also have Nevada benefit information. The same amount of money in the above table defines SGA. This is true even if the cost of living is higher in California than Nevada.

If you have questions about work and your benefits, then contact our office. We will answer your questions for free. Also, we offer a free review of your case. Additionally, we do not charge an attorney fee unless we win your benefits. If we don’t win, you don’t have to pay an attorney fee. If you need SSD benefits or SSI benefits, then contact Cannon Disability Law.

We will help you apply for benefits or appeal an SSA denial. You can contact us by phone or by email. We can often answer your questions about working and benefits over the phone. Give us a call today. Hire us be your legal team. Put our experience to work for you.


If you cannot work due to a severe physical or mental medical condition, then Cannon Disability Law can help you apply for SSD and SSI benefits. Also, we can help you appeal an SSA denial. Additionally, we will represent you in court at your Social Security hearing. Unlike most law firms, we will also help you be a witness in your case. We do this by meeting with you before your hearing and telling you the questions the judge is likely to ask in court.

If necessary, we can appeal your case to the Appeals Council. Likewise, we file appeals in Federal Court. Also, we can represent you where you live. For example, we can represent you if need an attorney in Utah or Nevada. Additionally, we can help you if you live in Idaho, Colorado, or California. You can find out more about California SSDI benefits here. Likewise, Idaho benefit information can be found here.

Your ability to receive Medicaid and Medicare depends upon whether or not you are successful with your claim. In order to fight the SSA’s denials, you need a law frizz with experience. Hire us. Dianna Cannon has been helping people win benefits for over thirty years. Likewise, Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of  experience fighting the SSA. We have won over 20,000 SSD and SSI hearings for out clients. You can trust us to do our best for you. We will do everything we can to win your SSD and SSI benefits.


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